This post comes courtesy of Williams-Sonoma associate Steven Lauer.
So, you’ve decided to take a trip to the Northern California Wine Country and you want to go wine tasting. Wonderful! But where should you focus your tastes, Sonoma or Napa Valley? Great question — please read on as I think I can help you decide!
First off, choose either Sonoma or Napa — not both. This is especially necessary if you’re planning a trip no longer than a “long weekend” of two to three days. Why? Well, there’s simply too much to see, and a staggering amount of wine to taste in such a short amount of time.
I love visiting wineries, and while I do focus more on the tasting rather than the drinking, it’s rare that I find my palate can withstand more than four winery visits in a day. Why? Quite simply, after visiting three to four wineries and enjoying seven to 10 wine tastes at each winery, your taste buds cannot distinguish between the wines. And, to be really candid, if you try visit too many wineries (despite your best efforts to taste, spit, pour out, etc.), you will end up having consumed several glasses of wine and well, you’ll be a ‘lil tipsy.
One person’s tipsy is another person’s happy, but be forewarned: either feeling can lead to a lot of buyer’s remorse. Why? In my experience what you taste later is not going to be what you remembered when you tasted the wine at the winery.
Sonoma or Napa?
Both Sonoma and Napa Valley have bountiful selections of extremely high-quality wines, but my preference is Sonoma, specifically Dry Creek Valley near the lovely town of Healdsburg. If you’re a lover of red wines, specifically Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, then do plan a trip soon to visit this lovely lesser known wine country. Now, you can certainly find Zin and Petite in Napa too — and they’ll be good wines, if not great! But you’ll also pay for the privilege, as Napa wineries tend to cater to more tourists, and as such, charge tourist prices. Sonoma has its share of tourist traps, but nothing on the scale of Napa. In Sonoma, you’ll find the wineries focus more on the wine making and the wine tasting process; whereas in Napa, you’ll find the wineries crowded with limos, party buses and shops offering an array of wine-related lifestyle items.
Still can’t decide? Think about this — if you love Cabernet Sauvignon, the glamour and energy of Las Vegas and have a thick wallet, then you’ll probably find Napa Valley to be your go-to destination. However, if you prefer a more relaxed pace and less commercial experience, Sonoma Valley is for you.
That all being said, if you have the time and the means to do so, go to both! Cheers!
About the author: Steven works in Williams-Sonoma’s corporate training department. He is a self-described refugee of the American Midwest who came to the Bay Area for work and has since fallen in love with the hearty red wines of Sonoma Valley. Steven balances his wine vices with mountain biking and running in California’s Marin County.